By John Sollars, founder of StinkyInk.com
When I looked at him blankly, he expanded his query to “spam emails”. Spam?! SPAM’!!!?! – I was mortified. I don’t send spam, but I do use email marketing as a major element of our communication strategy.
This got me thinking about how important email marketing is to my business, so in order to dispel any idea that I generate “spam emails” I need to justify what I actually do.
Let’s start with a definition. According to Spamhaus:
The word “Spam” as applied to email means “Unsolicited bulk email”.
1 – The first key word there is “unsolicited”. Anyone can acquire or generate a list of email addresses to mail. Legitimate email marketers, like myself, engage in no such practices.
My company’s own email list is “double opted in”. This means that the customer has to agree twice to join our newsletter.
1. Register for our newsletter via a sign up form or by ticking a checkbox (this checkbox is never pre-ticked)
2. Confirm this subscription request via a confirmation email we send immediately to them after stage 1.
This means that anyone who has been falsely signed up by another party, or simply accidentally provided their email details, has a second chance to say “hey, no, don’t email me”. This protects both our customers and our brand image as a responsible sender.
We take this one stage further with a clear unsubscribe option in every email. It’s actually a legal requirement to provide such a link or email address for recipients, but it never hurts to make this explicit and be open about people’s options. Ultimately it’s in your interests too as you don’t really want to be contacting people who aren’t going to buy.
2 – The second key word is “bulk”. This word initially implies volume, and it’s safe to assume that it should be referred to as volume per user. There’s a vast difference between sending 1,000 emails to 1,000 subscribers (one email per subscriber), and mailing 1,000 emails to 10 subscribers.
There’s no correct level for how many times you can send an email before you can class it as spam. One of my competitors runs a successful email campaign that comprises of three emails per week to each customer; another one sends just one a week.
In my business of selling ink, I feel that a couple a month are usually ample, unless there are special circumstances. For instance this month, April 2012, is our tenth birthday and we are sending a short series of varied offers out in celebration of this milestone event.
It’s essential to monitor customers’ reactions to your campaigns. We had one person who had subscribed to us as a new customer, received one email from us around ten days later, and marked us as abusive for “sending too many emails”. We followed this up to apologise, and it was actually the customer who apologised to us when he realised his mistake.
Even though our entire campaign, such as branding and content design, was different to the other companies emailing him, the customer was frustrated by the overall volume and because others had no clear unsubscribe option.
“Bulk” can also apply to how generalised the email content is. We take every effort to send meaningful, and targeted messages to our subscribers. Again, any company can send a broad email to an entire mailing list. But effective targeting and segmentation within this list – that’s a skill.
3 – The third word is “email”, and I’m happy that what we send can be classified as an email!
So, there you go, I can look my friend in the eye and say we don’t send “spam”. Indeed, we generate an extra week’s turnover each month by using email marketing well, and in my opinion there is no more cost effective way to create sales for your business. As long as you don’t fall into the spam trap!